Breathing Squats

Get Sculpted Legs With This Intensity Technique

No matter where you look, you will see people talking about how squats are the king (or queen) of strength training exercises. I love squats as much as the next girl, and I find myself constantly experimenting with how I can make my workouts and the workouts for my clients as efficient as possible.

Along with efficiency from a time standpoint, we like to focus on the big goals for most people—losing fat and getting more defined and sculpted.

Breathing Squats - Get Sculpted Legs With This Intensity Technique

One of the best ways to do this is to incorporate some higher repetition and heavier weight work. This is a dynamic combination for fat loss. It’s important to note that if you are looking to lose fat, you must get yourself strong in order to boost your metabolism—more muscle equals more calories burned at rest (a.k.a., a higher metabolic rate).

Today, I wanted to share with you a technique you can use immediately with your squat sessions. This is an old bodybuilding style called the “Breathing Squat.”

Typically, this is done with a Barbell Back Squat, but you can also do the following variations:


The premise is simple. You will select a weight that would be about your 15 rep max (nearing failure at the 15 rep mark). Make sure you can still maintain perfect technique and a tight core, but you are feeling the weight and you’re getting fatigued.

But, that’s when things get interesting. With the Breathing Squat technique, you will actually be doing 20 repetitions. After the 15th rep, you will pause at the top of the squat and take a few breaths (anything in between 10 and 20 seconds at the top is fine). Then, you will complete another rep. Pause again, breath and push out another rep. Do this until you have reached 20, then re-rack the weights.

I like to use this as a squat variation, and I’ll do 2-3 sets at the beginning of my lower body session or as part of a full body session. You can also use this as a finisher for a lower body or full body day and perform one set to finish off your training session.

This may take a little experimentation to get the weight just right, but remember the parameters are that by 15 reps you should be very, very tired but not losing form. Each rep after that is a grind, and you should want to rest between each rep. Do not put the weight down until you complete all 20.


This is an advanced technique, so I would not recommend breathing squats for a beginner. Master your squat before taking this one on.

If you are doing traditional barbell back squats, make sure your rack has a safety bar or safety pins to re-rack the bar from the bottom of the squat, in case you get too fatigued to complete the rep. The first few times you try this technique, have a spotter assist you.

You may want to start with the KB/DB variations described earlier in this article to start, as it is easier to dump the weight should you need to.

Give this squat variation a try and be sure to leave a comment below about how it went for you.

For more Intensity Techniques & Squat Variations, check out these articles:

Intensity Techniques by Nicole Wilkins
Squat Variations by Gina Aliotti
Bench Kettlebell Squat by Tawna Eubanks

Callie Durbrow

Callie Durbrow is the owner of Durbrow Performance Training and the author of Strong and Sexy in 25 Minutes.

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